One of the shallowest lakes in Florida, and one of the largest lakes in the US, Lake Okeechobee is also one of the most polluted. Runoff from nearby farmland, golf courses, septic systems and continuing problems with the unkempt dam system for a “muck” on the bottom of the lake that consists of arsenic, pesticides and other chemicals. The lake has already permeated into nearby estuaries, feeding the growth of harmful algae and bacteria that can kill oysters, hurt manatees, and damage freshwater organisms and seagrass.
Normal water levels are around 9 feet on average, but this season, the water levels are nearing 15.5 feet. This is dangerous because flooding could cause the pollution to continue spreading into other water systems and into the neighboring community. If the water levels continue to rise, this could mean bad news for folks living on and near the lake.
Lake Okeechobee is a popular site for tourists; and with the mud-brown water, and green algae growing a muck – the visitors aren’t coming like they used to.
Officials say there just isn’t enough government funding to keep up with the needs of the lake. The pollution is getting out of hand and the solution a delicate science.
In order to keep this lake from running over, we’ll just have to hope the rain stops. Keeping the water levels from rising is a top priority of Florida officials. Problem is, Wildlife protection funding has been slashed, and so has the algae prevention funding. The scales are tipping in favor of Lake Okeechobee bursting. We can just hope that there’s a lesson learned in this about environmental responsibility.